Kati Whitledge, entreprenuer, speaker, author, podcaster and owner of Be Inspired Salon in...

Kati Whitledge, entreprenuer, speaker, author, podcaster and owner of Be Inspired Salon in Madison, WI.

Welcome back to our salon leadership series! In part one we learned that Leaders are Influencers. Now, in part two of our salon leadership series, we are going to uncover what it means to be a leader who serves.

It sounds exceptional to be called a leader. You absolutely have to be an exception because most people want to have the title of a leader, but they don’t understand the sacrifices that accompany that title. It’s not about the power to call the shots. It’s about taking care of people, so they become better, and ultimately, the team becomes better.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Serving Takes Love

I was taught about the three types of love in Greek terms. There is Eros, which is sexual, romantic, and passionate love. There is Philia, which is friendship and brotherly love. And finally, there is Agape, which is a sacrificial love. It’s a love for humanity—loving people for no other reason than they’re people. And that’s the kind of love we as leaders need to display. It’s a willingness to have unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

How can we show sacrificial and unselfish love for our team members? Glad you asked! First, you can discover how they feel loved. Have you heard of The Five Love Languages? There are five ways people tend to feel loved by others—spending time with them, giving them positive affirmations, giving them gifts, acts of service, and the fifth is touch.

If I know one of my stylist’s love language is time, I will ask them to coffee or maybe give them with a gift card to a restaurant where they can have a date night (and spend time) with their significant other—which covers two love languages! Boom!

Many of my stylists thrive with positive affirmations. They want feedback on a regular basis on how great they’re doing or how great they are. I try my best to comment on their Instagram hair posts, and when I’m at the salon I go out of my way to have a mini catch up session with them. That attention and positive feedback during a conversation goes a long way.

Sometimes I can tell when one of my team members needs a hug. And in today’s culture, I now always ask, “Can I give you a hug?. I’ve not been turned down yet, and the transfer of oxytocin is a bonus for us both—we both feel better after a hug.

Some of my team members prefer acts of service as their love language. When this is the case, I always try to think of helpful tasks I could do for them. Sometimes that’s as simple as randomly covering their closing duties so they get to leave early.

I truly believe that loving others is an easy ask because it’s a major factor for why most of us joined the beauty industry. Great leaders serve by loving others well.

Serving Takes Sacrifice

Leaders who serve know that serving is a great sacrifice of their time and energy. We’re invested in our team’s success above our own. We are the Phil Jackson in the story, not the Michael Jordan. But Michael needs us to be present, engaged, and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the team wins. This means we come in early for our stylists, and we stay late to support those who might be running behind. It means we are available outside of our scheduled hours to talk because emotions demand attention in times of need that we may not anticipate.

And it’s a risk! You may give your all and never receive the recognition you desire or deserve. You might not be acknowledged or thanked. You may even work hard to grow people who leave you to do their own thing. It’s tough and at times it hurts.

But we still commit to giving because it’s who we are. We’ve worked hard to plant seeds, water those seeds, shine a light on them, and as a result, they grow and eventually produce fruit. We know what they need to do to be successful and that’s why serve them, nurture them, encourage them, call them out for the sake of their good, and hold them accountable to their dreams—the dreams you so clearly see for them as well.

We do this because even though we don’t expect someone to invest in us the way we invest in them, we have the privilege of watching them grow and thrive.  When your stylist goes from homeless to homeowner due to your investment of time and energy—that’s success. That’s leadership. And that makes all the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile. If that doesn’t do it for you, then you probably shouldn’t take on a leadership role.  

Serving Takes Perseverance

As mentioned above, there are a lot of risks involved in investing your time and energy into others. Servant leadership takes perseverance. Heck, all of life takes perseverance! How do we adjust our own expectations so we can continue to move our salon in a positive direction even when the going gets tough?

First, we cannot take it personally. Sometimes when we give to others, we expect them to change and become just like us. We expect them to think the way we do, react how we would, and act the way we think they should act. And that’s not reality. In reality, people are going to adopt a portion of what we teach them and then based on their personal values and beliefs, they’ll live life on their terms. And we cannot take it personally or expect people to become like us. It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves.

Second, we cannot give up on them or ourselves. There are going to be trials where we will want to give up, but remember, not only are we there to help them, they are there to help us. When one person teaches, two people learn. So, how can you remind yourself that this tough experience is all a part of the learning process? May I humbly recommend you find a leader who’s willing and able to develop you? All leaders need leaders who will help them level up, keep them on track, hold them accountable, and call them out on their BS if and when it’s needed.

Finally, we must persevere through failures. Sometimes we are going to fail as leaders and in those situations, we have to acknowledge the fail, apologize to those who may have been affected, and quickly turn towards a new way or behavior to ensure it won’t be repeated. We aren’t perfect and we aren’t going to serve perfect people. That’s another reason I love Dr. Martin’s quote where he says, “You only need a heart full of grace.” If we create an environment where failing is a part of the path toward growth, we will all blossom. But it’s the grace we extend after we do something wrong that creates unbreakable bonds between ourselves and our team.

Where will you go from here? How will you serve and love the people you’re called to lead? Who will lead you and help you become the best leader possible? Stay tuned for part three of our leadership series – Nobody Said Being a Leader Was Easy.

About the Author: Kati Whitledge is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and podcaster. She opened Be Inspired Salon in 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. Her passion for salon marketing and business grew tremendously and encouraged her launch of Meet Your Stylist, a matchmaking marketing tool used by salon owners throughout North America. She’s also the beloved host and founder of The Beyond The Technique podcast—where valuable education is provided on the vast topics of salon business. Kati’s mission is to equip salon owners and their teams with the most innovative business marketing strategies.

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